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Province expands security infrastructure funding to include Jewish, Muslim schools

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Jewish and Muslim schools in Alberta are getting extra short-term funding to increase security with officers on campus.

Public Safety Minister Mike Ellis announced the measure that will see the Alberta Security Infrastructure Program grant expanded to include the schools for up to 12 months.

Eligible schools will be able to apply for up to $20,000 to help cover costs of security assessments and enhancements. Funding through ASIP currently supports non-profit organizations, eligible charities and places of worship.

Ellis said the province is also making sheriffs available to support local police in monitoring faith-related sites such as schools, synagogues, mosques and community centres.

The minister said the increases in funding and police presence is not in reaction to incidents experienced at such Alberta sites, rather as a "preemptive measure" to "ensure that Albertans, their schools, their places of worship, are protected from heinous acts of antisemitism and Islamophobia."

"We certainly see some of the things that have occurred in other jurisdictions in Canada, but this was kind of instigated by parents both in the Jewish community and in the Muslim community who would tell me and certainly my colleagues stories of their children watching the news and saying, 'mom, dad, is this going to happen in our school?' as an example," Ellis told reporters on Thursday at the Alberta legislature, adding that his department reached out to both Muslim and Jewish communities following the start of the recent Israel-Hamas war in early October.

"We have no information at this time that there is a direct threat. However, the old policeman in me says we always got to be prepared, and certainly to make sure that our community feels safe has always been a priority of mine."

Data from the Edmonton Police Service shows hate-related crimes and incidents against both the Muslim and Jewish communities increased notably in October this year, with nine reported hate-related events against each community.

In September, EPS reported one hate-related incident against each community. Last month, it recorded four such incidents against Jews, two against Muslims.

In October 2022, it reported three hate-related events against Muslims and none against Jews.

Ellis was joined at the media conference by Mickey Amery and Demetrios Nicolaides, respectively the ministers of justice and education, Jewish Federation of Edmonton chief executive officer Stacey Leavitt-Wright, Edmonton Islamic Academy principal Abraham Abougouche and acting Alberta Sheriffs chief Bob Andrews.

The temporary ASIP change has two types of grant expansion: the cost-recovery grant for expenses incurred after Oct. 7 and the regular grant for security assessments and enhancements.

ASIP, which was created in 2021 to support communities and groups at risk of hate-motivated violence with financial help to address security needs, has distributed 231 grants worth more than $2.4 million. In 2022-23, the province increased funding for ASIP to $5 million annually.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's John Hanson 

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